Self-driving cars have long been a vision of the futuristic world. Science Fiction books and movies have portrayed the future as a world where human error has been all but eliminated in transportation as everything has shifted to automation and artificial intelligence. Planes, trains, and automobiles will be able to drive themselves, flawlessly, without accidents or error, with or without human passengers or direction. A decade ago we would have guessed it was a distant future, of course. But now the reality of autonomous cars is upon us.
The Tesla self-driving car is one of the first on the market which boasts of autonomous driving. It can regulate speed, scan for obstacles, even predict the likelihood of error and risk while driving. Along with the autonomous driving features, the Tesla models are also top-of-the-line when it comes to luxury comforts and features. Even if you’re not using the Autopilot system it can help you drive more safely by indicating when you begin to drift across lanes or if it detects obstacles too close to your vehicle. Pretty cool!
Google, BMW, Ford, and others are working rapidly to provide additional options for autonomous cars. We probably aren’t more than five years away from seeing autopilot-like systems in vehicles on car lots across America! Semi-truck companies are pushing hard to automate their fleets, which would eliminate the need for truck drivers who must stop for meals and sleep, as well as decreasing the number of collisions on interstate highways - hopefully.
But will it work? Will it happen? Will lawmakers and auto industries allow it? There are still a lot of obstacles to autonomous cars. They will always be limited to some extent. In the case of a deadly crash when a driver was using the Tesla Autopilot system, the car was unable to distinguish a large trailer in the path of it’s vehicle, and the driver was failing to pay attention. The system was working as designed, but if the driver loses focus then the autopilot system can be dangerous. Others have indicated that autonomous cars will ruin the entire concept of self-ownership, because autonomous cars will eventually work like a taxi or Uber system where we reserve or rent the vehicles for small trips but they are owned by a company or manufacturer. As stated above, autonomous cars are also a threat to truck drivers and many other working groups who rely on the driving and maintenance of private or commercial vehicles for their livelihood.
It seems that autonomous cars are definitely in the future. Actually, they’re already in our present! They will continue to evolve and develop as time goes on and as research and technology improves. It’s hard to say now what this will mean for our society, or how quickly we’ll approach the futuristic vision we’ve seen in movies, but for now we’ll keep our eye on autonomous cars.